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This next series of posts will focus on how I found my current therapist, since psychotherapy is the course of treatment that I have settled on for the time being. I have only been in therapy for a month now after a 1,047 day absence, or about three years. This time feels completely different. I feel like I am poised for real change and I have actual hope that I can heal. I can see a clear light at the end of the tunnel.
I struggled with therapy before simply because the type of therapy that I was seeking was not right for me, and not right for treating my PTSD and other issues. I had never even considered this before; I thought that all therapist work within a narrow realm of techniques and that there wasn’t much else to it. While in a general sense this might be true, there is so much more to it.
Choosing a therapist will most likely be one of the most important decision that I make in moving my life in a more permanently positive direction. This time I did not make the choice lightly. In this series of posts I will fully describe the process that I used to find my therapist, and explain why I think it might work for you to0.
PTSD Treatment Options
I have recently embraced that I want more from life and to achieve this I only had a few simple choices for treatment options:
- Medication (only lessens symptoms, not a cure)
- Survivor Groups
- Self Managed Treatment
I arrived at the decision to give psychotherapy another go using a simple process of elimination:
- Psychotherapy – I had gained benefits from this option in the past, but not made as much progress as I feel I should have. But had I really sought out the best care for my personal situation?
- Medication – I have tried just about every drug available on the market as of 2006. And not just a half-assed try – I tried each drug for a solid three months each, taking it religiously and on time each day. None of them worked, or they worked too much leaving me in a disoriented or sleepy state.
- Survivor Groups – I have also given these a minimal chance in the past. I was so reactive to my personal situation reflected in others stories that I found it difficult to focus on anything other than my own panicked emotions.
- Self Managed Treatment – You can’t help yourself because yourself SUCKS! No, just kidding! But seriously, nothing I was trying was really working and I wasn’t sticking to any plan consistently. Given my current depression I also had little hope for following any plan through on my own and I lack any real social support system.
So after analyzing my conclusions on the limited options it became clear to me that I needed to give psychotherapy another chance, but this time I wanted to approach it from a completely different perspective.
How NOT to Choose a Therapist
When I had approached therapy before, I approached finding a counselor more like a business task instead of one that had anything to do with me personally. I only had three questions:
- Would my insurance cover the visit?/Could I afford the fees?
- Was it going to be a far drive?
- Did I feel the therapist could generally help me?
That was it. I would get answers to just these three questions, feeling completely bewildered and confused as I always did back then, and then choose whoever was cheapest. This IS NOT a very effective way to go about choosing a therapist for sure.
Think about it — you are going to trust this person with your mental health, your deepest, darkest secrets and expect them to actually facilitate some sort of change in your behavioral patterns. This is no small task, not to mention that you will most likely be paying them 5-20x what you personally make an hour.
It is no wonder that this flawed method I was using to find a counselor didn’t give me the results I was hoping for. My former method gave no consideration to so many important factors, such as:
- What type of therapy was I looking for? Does this therapist offer it?
- Does the therapist have any experience with my specific needs?
- Were they certified and/or licensed?
- What was I looking for in a therapist?
- And so many more questions.
I decided to buckle down and make sure that if I was going to give this therapy thing another go around, and spend a CRAP-LOAD more money, that I do it right this time.
Resources for Finding a Good Therapist
As I always do, I started my research on the Internet since I didn’t know anyone who had a good recommendation for me. I actually asked a couple friends, which was a big deal for me given my social anxiety and my goal of trying to always keep personal matters to myself.
Here are the resources that I ended up referencing and actually using in the end, after hours of research:
- How Do I Select A Therapist or Counselor? by LifeHacker
- Great article with some meat covering topics such as what all the different provider titles mean, which type of provider you should choose, and how you might go about choosing them.
- I really like the helpful hints and insightful advice sprinkled throughout this article. If you only read one of these resources this would be the one I would choose.
- How to Choose a Counselor or Therapist by GoodTherapy.org
- This article is formatted as a list of fourteen questions that you can ask potential mental health service providers.
- Ultimately this article gave me the idea that I should treat finding a good therapist as an interview process – lightbulb moment!
- I liked many of the questions and ended up using them for my own personal questionnaire.
- How to Choose a Therapist on WikiHow
- Simplistic list of just six to-the-point steps. Includes a great list of tips and warnings.
- Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist – Assists in finding a provider in your area based on: issues, sexuality, age, religion, gender and insurance accepted.
- Finding a Therapist by HelpGuide.org – Very meaty article about finding a therapist from an expectation point of view. Includes common myths about therapy, how to make the most of therapy, how to evaluate if your therapy is working and when to stop therapy. Also includes a section about affording the cost of therapy.
- WebMD How to Find a Therapist – Another great in depth resource that has details on each provider type and full approach on how to research finding a therapist.
- The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook – Part 2, About Healing, Recovery, and Growth
- Includes a list of questions for therapists.
In the next posts in this series I will cover what elements you should take into consideration when choosing a therapist and outline the exact process I used to find my current therapist, whom I really like and have great confidence in. I will also share everything I learned while following this process through myself, such as how to “interview” potential service providers and upload a useful questionnaire that you can print out to bring along to meetings.